Keynote address

Human natures

Dr. Philippe Descola, Collège de France, Laboratoire d’anthropologie sociale

What we are (as organisms, as humans, as parts of a collective, as gendered beings) depends upon intrinsic qualities (physical and cognitive dispositions) as much as upon contrastive qualities, i.e. differentiating features that we selectively detect or fail to detect among other human and non human components of the world. Human nature is thus moderately plural and largely relational, in that it draws its specificities from its capacity to respond to the affordances provided by our environment according to patterns that are not beyond the reach of scientific inquiry. The lecture will explore some of the consequences of this situation, often acknowledged but seldom confronted, for the practice and agenda of anthropology.